Vernon Lamb, the lab support engineer and manager in the Biomedical Engineering (BME) Department, is the recipient of the inaugural Dean’s Outstanding Student Support Award. The purpose of this award is to recognize a staff member for significant contributions that enrich the student experience and/or have a positive impact on student development in the College of Engineering.
Significant contributions are viewed as special efforts, beyond the norm, that enhance the well-being and opportunities of students in our engineering community.
According to BME graduate student Luca Fuller, one of Lamb’s nominators for this award, “Vernon’s primary responsibilities involve maintaining lab spaces and equipment to ensure researchers in the department can conduct their work in a clean, safe, and efficient environment. While these responsibilities alone are essential to the success of graduate students in our department, Vernon frequently goes above and beyond these roles to solve other problems specific to graduate students’ individual research efforts.”
Lamb has been with the BME department since its inauguration on campus in 2018. “Since then,” said Fuller, “he has been instrumental in the planning and implementation of our state-of-the-art laboratories. As the only lab support engineer in a new and rapidly growing department, Vernon is kept busy with the demands of several different lab groups trying to get up and running as quickly as possible.”
Additionally, as Fuller explained, “Vernon takes it upon himself to help graduate students by ordering supplies and materials for their research, providing technical support with lab equipment, and organizing and maintaining equipment reservations for the many pieces of shared equipment in our department.”
Fuller added that “Personally, Vernon has spent many hours helping me design and manufacture parts and fixtures for various experiments critical to my research goals. While I may only be one graduate student, I have witnessed Vernon provide similar unconditional support to many fellow graduate students in the department.”
BME undergraduate researcher Ryan Ek also nominated Lamb for the award. “A time in which he helped me that comes to mind is when our mechanical testing system was malfunctioning,” recalled Ek. “He seemed very busy in his office sending and answering emails, but when I came in and asked for help, he was enthusiastic about aiding me in that very moment even after telling him it can wait. He spent almost an hour of his day troubleshooting the problem with me and didn’t leave until a solution was reached.”
Ek recalled another time in which Lamb was helpful, when Ek needed to modify fixturing for mechanical tests he was conducting.
“Being a biomedical engineering student,” said Ek, “I’m not very skillful in machining. Vernon was willing to show me how to mill the fixture until the desired dimensions were reached.”
Ek also noted that, during the fall of 2019, Lamb was extremely helpful in organizing the department’s move from the Goessman building to the Life Sciences Laboratory. In conjunction with helping students with research, Lamb also aids in the department’s laboratory classes several times a week each semester.
As BME undergraduate Gerardo Narez explained in his nomination letter for Lamb, “Although his background is in mechanical engineering, Vernon has always devoted himself to understanding the projects students are working on to better fit their needs and answer their questions. He takes the time to fully understand our research and what our goals are before he provides suggestions on how to best tackle a problem we encounter in lab.”
Narez added that “Vernon is the busiest individual in our department, but that has not stopped him from being accessible to students.”
In addition, said Narez, “Vernon’s dedication to the success of the department was most evident to me when I worked closely with him to create the inaugural lab course for the BME department titled ‘Introduction to Laboratory Techniques for Biomedical Engineers.’ Together, along with the course instructor, we created laboratory experiments that allowed undergraduate students to apply biomedical engineering concepts ranging from cell culture techniques to large scale biomechanics.”
Narez concluded that “While we developed this course, I saw his passion…that would permit students to gain the valuable hands-on experience they need as engineers.” (April 2021)